Are you ready to truly live? To live life to the fullest like so many people claim to do? Then being a digital nomad is for you.
The idea of living abroad might seem daunting at first, it was for me, but as the saying goes: ‘you can do anything you put your mind to.’ The biggest thing is setting your mind on the goal of actually leaving.
Where do you want to go? Tanzania in Africa where you can go on safaris, climb mountains, and layout on the beach all in one country? Or maybe you want to experience city life in a different country: then Kuala Lumpur or English rich Singapore in Malaysia might be for you. Maybe you want to learn a different language, or improve your spanish, for that, there are a myriad of countries in Central and South America to choose from.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Once you make that first giant leap. That first step of faith that you can succeed, everything will be much easier. Take it from me. I decided to leave the US just 3 months before transforming myself into an internet nomad and hopping on a flight to Bangkok. Sure I was scared, yes I was worried. Less than a month before my flight, I was still trying to find a way to support myself!
In this article we’ll explore some of the best places to truly free yourself from the chains of the 9-5 and become a digital vagabond.
The most common choice for westerners, and my current home base. It has enough appeal as an exotic land to draw the adventurous type; yet the expat community is large enough that you can still find
comfort with western people and things.
In Bangkok, the cost of living is cheap. Rent for my condo that is 60 square meters (645 sq. ft. for us Americans), 2 bedrooms, and slightly off the western beaten path, is a measly $400 a month. Utilities, including decent wifi/ TV, electricity, and water costs just $120 USD a month and I share all these costs with a long time American friend. The condo came furnished (with air conditioning of course) and is on the 26th floor, which provides for a spectacular view. I can walk around my neighborhood for hours and see only a handful of westerners. If any at all. That part I love.
One caveat about Thailand is the censorship. As well as coups as recent as 2014. But neither of these affect expats a whole lot.
A 2 hour van ride to Pattaya (a popular beach destination and portal to some of Thailand’s fantastic islands), costs just 100 baht or $3 USD. The hotels there run as low as $18 USD for a decent room just 2 blocks from the miles and miles of beach. There is also a vibrant nightlife there. But I must note, some consider Pattaya the sex capital of the world, although it has much more to offer.
If a more rural setting is your style you can also live in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It is even cheaper to live and allows easier access to surrounding countries and natural attractions like mountain hiking.
I could go on about Thailand for this entire post. But maybe you would like something a little different…
Claiming a stretch of Africa’s eastern cost line and home to Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is exciting enough to gain respect from even your most traveled friends.
The cost of living in Tanzania, even in its most populated city Dar Es Salaam is, for the most part, comparable to that of Bangkok. With the exception being housing, which is comparable to New York or Toronto. Expect to pay $1000 USD/month for a secure and fully equipped one bedroom apartment.
It’s important to note that only roughly 15% of the population actually has access to grid based electricity. For the digital traveler WiFi is only accessible in urban areas. Smartphones are just now growing in popularity with a below average amount of 3G coverage, only in urban areas, again. There is also a decent, although not nearly as big as Bangkok, expat community, mostly situated on the Msasani Peninsula.
You might want to skip Serengeti tours, as they have been described as the midtown Manhattan of safaris. Instead, check out the Arusha National Park or the smorgasbord of other safari and park options easily accessible. Also, the aforementioned Mt. Kilimanjaro is a great challenge and easy destination to reach.
One of my personal top choices to move to should I choose to explore Latin America. Chile boasts ancient sites such as the Atacama Giant and the ever famous, Easter Island. Furthermore, Chile’s primary language is Spanish, making it easily accessible to a large portion of Americans. Who doesn’t know at least a little Spanish? Donde esta el bano?
The seaport and amazingly picturesque city of Valparaíso also sits just 70 miles (112 km) from the capital of Chile, Santiago.
WiFi is easy to come by, albeit slow. The cost of living approaches that of American/ European prices with a draft beer costing around $2.25 USD and a small apartment costing roughly $600 USD. The expat community is plentiful here as well, with a multitude of ESL (English as Second Language)/ EFL (English as Foreign Language) teachers living here.
If cheap living is what you’re looking for to begin your expat digital vagabond lifestyle then the Philippines are where you should head. Manila and Davao both have a cost of living moderately cheaper than that of Thailand while still having several amenities that westerners look for. Including plenty of English speaking nationals, and eco-adventures.
Beaches, whitewater rafting, wakeboarding, camping, hiking, and horseback riding are all easily accessible. Davao, as well as the capital city of Manila, both have a vibrant nightlife. You can live like a king here on $1000-1200 USD.
However, Cebu, the second largest city has even cheaper rent and utility charges as well as less traffic. Trust me, even if you don’t plan on driving traffic is still almost always an issue (motorbike taxis are great for skirting traffic in Bangkok).
You also have the choice of the paradise island, Boracay. Boracay is often on top 10 beaches lists and is the number one destination in the Philippines, so it will get quite busy.
You can do it! These are just a few ideas of places for expats to live abroad. The advantage of being a digital nomad is, as the name implies, that you can live anywhere. All you need is decent internet connection. Most urban cities around the world have plenty of restaurants and cafes that offer WiFi. For my first few weeks here in Bangkok I relied on Starbucks, McDonalds, and another small cafe across the street for their WiFi. It’s great because it forces you to get out and explore the city: to get even more out of your comfort zone.
Once you make that first step and move to a foreign county you will feel empowered. You will soon realize, like I did, that the world is yours and nothing is truly off limits. Often times the limitations we live with are simply self-imposed. Breaking yourself from these nonsensical barriers will open your eyes. You will learn more than you thought possible and experience life through a whole new lens.
Stay tuned to find out how to become a digital nomad: what steps to take, and where to start